Are you looking for ways to improve your ability to make money? I’m not talking about side hustles or convenient little chores to turn around a few bucks in a weekend. I’m talking about YOU. Are you trying to improve yourself when it comes to your overall ability to produce and earn in this world?
Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin is a book written about what it takes to make yourself the kind of person who succeeds and builds wealth.
Rabbi Lapin sets the stage in his intro by showing through facts, not stereotypes, how the Jewish culture contains principles that cause Jews to be likely to become strong earners. Using his seemingly endless knowledge of the Torah (Jewish Scripture), his strong business IQ, and connection to present-day culture, he presents “Ten Commandments for Making Money.”
Right off the bat, he gives two statistics that are particularly compelling to his content. First off, Jewish people account for approximately 2% of the American population. If that is the case, then they should account for merely 8 spots of the Forbes 400 list. However, depending on the year, anywhere from 60-100 Jews are on that list. Additionally, the percentage of Jews who earn $75,000 annually is twice that of non-Jews.
Connectivity to Audience
I think that people from any faith background can glean great wisdom from this book. Being that Lapin is a Rabbi, those from Judeo-Christian faiths will have much less catching up to do when he uses examples from the Torah. However, this isn’t a religious book expounding on the Torah itself, but the wealth building principles from it. Any level of background knowledge of the Jewish faith can keep up with this book.
Thou Shall Prosper is a dense one. You won’t find an abundance of humor, and a lot of the sentences are complex and wordy. To be honest though, this is what I expected when I picked it up. I’m not coming to a Rabbi for funny jokes and a light read, I want to learn something.
There are many principles throughout the book that are unpacked in great detail, so the best strategy is to read with the goal being to absorb, not just to finish. If you go quickly, you’ll get to the end of a section and not have a clue what you just read.
Grab it when you have time to think about it as you read. I typically read a book every 2-4 weeks, and I gave this one 3 months. Part of that was there were times that I would only pick it up once in a week. I highly recommend reading it when you are in an attitude that you want to receive what it has to say. If you ever feel like it’s a chore you’re just trying to get done, read something else. The material in this book is worth reading when you will get the most from it.
Rabbi Lapin goes through ten “commandments” for prospering, and I found all of them to be helpful. There isn’t any fluff in these pages.
Much like it’s said of a flight-the most important parts are the takeoff and the landing-the opening and closing commandments stuck out to me the most.
Commandment Number 1 is “Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business.” This was a fascinating start for me because he exposes a bias toward business success that many of us don’t realize we have.
Stop and think for a moment about movies, tv shows, and books that you enjoy where there is a villain. Now ask yourself how often that villain is some evil rich business person? As Lapin points out (and facts support), business people are villainized in media more than any other occupation by a long shot.
This is part of a greater undercurrent in society teaching us that having wealth, specifically having more than someone else, means that we did something unfair to achieve it. Wealth is often viewed, unknowingly or knowingly, as evil. According to Lapin, this simply isn’t true.
Lapin lays out a strong case that I couldn’t begin to do justice in one post. To summarize, he describes that being in business means you’re serving. If you create a product that solves a problem for people, they are willing to pay you for it. This benefits you in providing income and them in making their life better.
Profit is simply proof that you made people’s lives better. He also very keenly dispels the myth that wealth means someone has cheated by pointing out what now seems obvious to me: If a business person is horrible to deal with and cheating at every turn, why on Earth would anyone continue to work with them? They’d shortly be out of business.
Perhaps my favorite part of this chapter is his very strong defense of a free market capitalist society. I won’t go into the details here, but you’ll walk away from this chapter convinced (rightly) that while our “system” may not be perfect, there isn’t a better one in the world at giving every citizen an opportunity to prosper.
Lapin closes Thou Shall Prosper with what I think was his strongest motivational message, the tenth commandment of “Never Retire.”
He lays out the train of thought that we are producers rather than consumers. We find our purpose through creation, not pure consumption. That’s why so many of us identify with what we do for a living. Work is a part of our being, not just something to be endured.
The stage of life where we no longer do anything at all to bring value to the world around us is a foreign and fleeting thought to Lapin. He challenges the reader to never stop producing as we age. While the ways that happens look different as we get older, he challenges the societal thought that elderly people are less useful than young ones.
Those with age, he says, possess great wisdom and experience to produce some of their best contributions in their later years. While they may not be a good physical labor force, they are in a prime place to achieve some of their greatest life’s work.
He doesn’t mean that you should work forever in something that doesn’t have meaning for you, but he does do a great job of shifting your perspective in this book to find meaning wherever you are.
Recommendation Level: High
I highly recommend this book. It’s a great read that will teach you a unique perspective on work and money.
It’s great for entrepreneurs or employees who see themselves in the driver’s seat of their wealth building rather than at the mercy of a company or boss. For the proactive producer who is trying to improve themselves, Thou Shall Prosper deserves a place on the shelf.
It’s also a timely book for today’s culture around the wealthy. Income inequality is a hotly contested topic, as well as the taxation of the “greedy and evil 1%.” This book presents a strong factual and philosophical response to the perception that wealth is evil and only achieved by evil means. Furthermore, it does a great job of proving that someone else having more wealth than you in no way prevents you from achieving wealth yourself.
What books have you read lately that have changed the way you think about money?
Any books I need to write a review on? Let me know in the comments below!